My big brother from another mother...HK connected!
August 21st, 2009
Toy doctor Ambrose Lee will fix your vintage teddy bear or GI Joe up as good as new. He talks to June Ng about his love for toys, and why they are much more than just simple fun.
HK Magazine: How did you get into the toy doctor business?
Ambrose Lee: I’ve been a toy collector for a long time, and as such you come across damaged items from time to time. But unlike most electronics where you can buy replacement parts, it’s pretty difficult with vintage toys. That’s why you have to collect duplicates and non-collectable toys, so you can have spare parts. My collection just started spreading and by 1989 I opened my own shop. Then I started getting requests from people to save their beloved toys.
HK: So who are your clients?
AL: Mostly grown-ups. One time this bigwig company CEO brought me his pastel blue teddy bear to repair—you can imagine how poor the condition was since he’s been taking it to bed every night for the past 40 years or so. But this is his security blanket. And you know what, even if I’m an expert in repairing toys, I can’t take every case that comes to me—sometimes it is very time consuming. But if I can sense your sincerity, I can make exceptions.
HK: Your expertise is in toy bears. What got you interested in the fluffy toys in the first place?
AL: I first started to collect toys such as GI Joe, which has always been my favorite. But later on I was introduced to teddies and I was so overwhelmed by the craftsmanship, and the sheer number of varieties. They originated in Germany and as they spread around the world, they developed many different forms and styles—the ones from Germany have longer, more pointed noses. The UK noses are flatter. In truly handsome models, the stitches in the nose are perfectly seamed and symmetrical. Truly authentic teddies will have movable joints.
HK: Did you have many toys when you were a kid?
AL: I didn’t. I have five other siblings and I never had enough toys. But here’s something ironic: when I was young, I didn’t have many toys to play with, but when I grew up and began collecting toys I didn’t have time to play with them either because I ended up with too many. And now it has become my career so it’s definitely not for play anymore. In the end, I’ve never really played with any of them.
HK: What about your own child? Would he be spoiled by your collection?
AL: I would say he has an adequate amount of toys, it’s not excessive. He’s nine years old so he’s not interested in my collection yet. He doesn’t like teddies—he prefers stuffed rabbits because he was born in the Year of the Rabbit, even though I’ve made four or five bears for him. Maybe when he gets older he’ll appreciate it more.
HK: What is a “toy” to you? How do you define it?
AL: A toy is a device that stores your good memories. Why
would someone buy a box of Lego from 1974? It must be because it reminds him of something good from his childhood, or maybe it was given to him by a beloved grandma who has now passed on. A toy brings back your memories of the sweet moments in your life.
Meet Ambrose Lee at the Colorful Carnival from August 28th - September 12th at the Prince’s Building from 10 Chater Rd., 2869-9138